Hyperbole and a Half [Book Review]

Date Thu, June 22 2017

Do you guys know Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half? She’s a hilarious blogger who, sadly, hasn’t been active for a few years. Even if you don’t recognize her name and haven’t read her blog, you might recognize her style of art that accompanies each post. It’s been used as many a meme (Know Your Meme has a good page on it).

So if you haven’t heard of her, now you have. I obviously had heard of her and have read every blog post on her site. I knew how hilarious she was. I knew she wrote a book, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. This meant it had been quite some time since I read those posts, which was probably a good thing.

Much of the content in Hyperbole and a Half, the book, is content curated from her blog. It’s some of the best, but not all of the best The Alot is Better Than You At Everything is one example of a missing post. I suggest you start there. If you like that post and find yourself wanting to read more, maybe stop and buy or check out this book to support an artist, you know?

You’re going to get a great impression of Allie from her blog, but the book does include some new content, and you can curl up in bed and read a hard copy or on your Kindle, which is a little more comfortable than reading a website.

I read Hyperbole and a Half in just one or two sittings. I couldn’t put it down despite having read many of the “chapters” as blog entries in the past. I had forgotten much of it, but it was all funny. I laughed until I cried and then nearly puked. I had to stop for my own health!

Despite being funny, Allie tackles issues such as anxiety and depression and how they make her react to specific things in her life. It’s easy to relate to her, a blogger who is sometimes awkward, a millennial who isn’t quite sure how to adult and a dog lover who attributes personality quirks to her pets that might make other people raise an eyebrow.

Hyperbole and a Half probably isn’t for everyone, but while I know many people who don’t know of the blog, those who do never seem to dislike it. It has nearly a 5-star review on Amazon from over 3500 readers, so I don’t think I am alone in my enjoyment of this book.

I feel pretty good recommending this book when you want a quick, easy read. If you’re not a fan of light humor and short blog-post-style “chapters,” then Hyperbole and a Half might not be for you. But I still recommend you read a blog post just to check.

The Night Circus [Book Review]

Date Wed, June 21 2017

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern tells the tale of a mysterious and magical circus that shows up without warning in various towns. It opens only at night, attracting a curious sort of crowd, both as circus-goers and performers. Within the fences are glorious tents, all in red, white and black, and within those tents are contained exhibits and performances that are beyond the scope of imagination to most characters who visit the circus in the book — and perhaps to many readers as well.

The Night Circus contains page after page of description of fantastic exhibit and magical show. It’s quite the treat for the mind’s eyes, but it’s also the bulk of the pages (of which there are many). It makes the book feel slow and, at times, quite tedious. There weren’t really any moments while I had put down my Kindle that I found myself with an insatiable desired to pick it back up.

Interspersed between descriptions of the circus itself is a plot, but the reader is never quite sure who is the main character or even if there is supposed to be one. I found that I was rather unsympathetic to the plethora of characters that lived within these pages — and there were no shortage of characters to follow, relationships to understand and lives to unravel.

Perhaps that last point is where all my frustration with The Night Circus rests. Throughout much of the book two characters, Clare and Marco, are set against one another by their masters, mentors and – in one case – father. But the characters struggle to understand the rules, the playing field and the outcome of that competition. Thus, the reader also fails to understand the game and, perhaps, the book that surrounds it and seems hinged on it.

I’ve read reviews that describe this as a book about a circus rather than one about people or a story. And I could give you that. So much of the book is spent describing the exhibits, and they’re certainly creative. It’s not difficult to envision them or wish they were real so that I could visit my very own night circus. But I am almost left with the feeling that this idea would work better in a visual format than it does as words on a page. There’s just not enough story here to support The Night Circus being a novel, let alone one that’s just so, well, long.

With that said, if you’re not as plot or character oriented, if you like the slow burn, if you want to be captivated by the imagery painted by the words, then you might enjoy The Night Circus more than i did.

What To Do If You’ve Lost Your Smartphone

Date Tue, June 20 2017

I am fortunate to never have had lost my phone or have it stolen. Knock on wood. But I recognize that it only has to happen once to wreak havoc on your life. And I’m prepared to deal with it should happen.

Chances are, you’re here because the worst (or what seems like the worst for the moment) has happened. Your phone is lost — or stolen. But it doesn’t need to be a catastrophe.

If your phone has already been lost or stolen, the next bit of advice probably won’t help you. However, the key to finding your lost phone is to set up protections before it becomes lost. This is pretty easy.

Google Device Manager options

Google Device Manager options


Head to Android Device Manager and sign in with your Google account. Click to enable remote phone locating. This will enable a few features that I’ll discuss below.

You’ll also be able to select “Enable Lock and Erase”. This is an extra security measure that I recommend. Once you enable it, you’ll be able to lock your device, set a new password and even enter a phone number where a finder can reach you (if a kind bystander happens to come across it, of course).

Lost Android?

Simply head back to the Android Device Manager (there’s also a Find My Device app if you prefer to access from another device and not your browser) There, you’ll see the location of your phone as well as battery level and if it’s connected to a network! I’m at home as I type this, so I see it located on the map.

In fact, you don’t even need to go there. A simple Google search for “Find My Phone” shows me the same information as long as I’m signed into my Google Account. But there are a few features of the device manager that are pretty handy.

Let’s say the Device Manager thinks your phone is at home, but you can’t find it. What can you do? From the device manager, you can turn on your ringer, even if your phone is set to silent. 

Now, this function requires a few things: that your phone be powered on, connected to a network, location services enables and “Find My Device” enabled.

One last ditch option is to track your device history from this page. It may direct you to the last place you had your phone.

Lock and Erase a Stolen or Lost Android Phone

As long as you’ve got Lock and Erase enabled, you can rest assured that the contents of your device will be safe, even if you never see the device again. You can log in to the device manager to lock your phone if you have hope of its return.

If you suspect that your phone has fallen into nefarious hands or even if it contains data that is sensitive (think phones used for work or any phone with banking/financial information on it), then erasing is the only option you might have. Unfortunately, you’ll lose access to any data including apps, contacts, photos, videos and messages on your phone. But no one else will have it, either.

Erasing is a last-ditch attempt to secure your privacy, so make sure you’ve exhausted other options before using it.

Locating a Lost iPhone

Find your iPhone

Find, lock or erase your lost iPhone or Apple device

Apple has a similar setup to Google should you lose your device, and it doesn’t just work for an iPhone. Your iPad and iPod Touch will also benefit from this feature.

You must first enable it by opening Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone. 

You can log in to icloud.com/find to find a lost device once this is enabled. You’ll see its location and also be able to play an alert to help find it.

Apple’s version of locking is Lost Mode. Lost Mode locks your phone so others cannot access it and enables you to enter a phone number where people can reach you if they find your phone. Lost Mode also prevents Apple Pay payments from your account.

The final option from this site (or the Find my iPhone app) is the ability to erase your iPhone just like you can an Android device.

If your device is turned off or not connected to a network, setting it to Lose Mode will activate as soon as it’s powered on again.

As you can see, these functions are of limited use if you haven’t enabled them or even if you have but your phone is dead. But they can be a lifesaver in the event that they’re turned on and your phone has power!

Derma E Vitamin E Giveaway

Date Mon, June 19 2017

As a reviewer, I occasionally receive packages that I don’t recall signing up for. I sometimes get things that I don’t really need. I usually don’t check my mail to find a box containing items that I shouldn’t have received, have no idea why I got, and don’t know what to do with. My confusion is your gain, dear reader!

I recently received a package from Derma E debuting some of their new products, specifically those containing Vitamin C. Now, I am more worried at this point in life about my skin’s redness, blemishes, and oiliness than hydration or youthfulness, so I don’t really have a use for these products. Thus, I’ve decided to give them away on Reviews by Cole.

Derma E Giveaway

The two products I have to give away are Derma E’s Vitamin C Concentrated Serum and Vitamin C Renewing Moisturizer. One is a daily moisturizer, and the other is an intensive serum if your skin needs a little more help. The serum has a light, citrus smell, feels soft and calming on the skin.

They’re both full-size products in 2-ounce containers, and they come with a Derma E bag, too! The retail value of these two products is $47, so it’s a good deal for you to be able to try them for free if you win this giveaway!

Per usual, I’ll be using Gleam for this giveaway. It’s easy-to-use for both of us. You get one free entry, a few options to enter via social media and some daily entries – so make sure to check back every day!

Since I am mailing these items myself, I’m opening this giveaway to U.S. entrants only. Sorry!

I will be verifying entries. Any invalid entry will invalidate all of your entries. I am forced to do this because of the rampant cheating in my last giveaway. If you can’t play by the rules, you don’t get to play at all.

For everyone else, good luck!
Derma E Giveaway

Giveaway ends July 15th.

Fresh Step Aloha Cat Litter

Date Fri, June 16 2017

You never realize how important something like cat litter is until you buy some horrible stuff and realize that it either turns to cement when your cats pee, it is completely ineffective at covering up smells of matter or it doesn’t clump at all. You really can’t know these things until you use the cat litter, and then you might be stuck with another 20 to 30 pounds of it to use up, even though you know it’s no good. Ugh! So is Fresh Step Extreme Aloha Cat Litter with the power of Febreeze any good? Read on to find out.

According to the description, this cat litter is low dust, and I didn’t experience any dust issues myself like I have with some in the past. This is also preferable for a kitty’s lungs.

Fresh Step Aloha Cat Litter

The box also claims that it will form clumps around urine, but the litter eventually became pretty cement-like in the bottom of the litter box, which is an issue that I am used to with clay cat litters. It wasn’t overly terrible, and the litter did a good job to block the ammonia smell, but it’s not perfect.

Fresh Step Extreme Odor Control Hawaiian Aloha Scent Cat Litter also seemed to do pretty well at blocking immediate poo smells after my cats used the bathroom. This may be due to the inclusion of Febreeze to limit odors.

Now, I am notoriously opposed to scented cat litters. There’s just something about them that seems wrong. I don’t just not enjoy it, I think the scent shouldn’t be there at all. I’m happy to report that Fresh Step’s Aloha cat litter is pleasant and doesn’t have the weird salty “after smell” that you can’t seem to avoid with most clay-based cat litters.

The 14-pound box that Chewy sent me to review was enough to fill the litter box, but I didn’t get much more than a week’s use out of it. It’s not going to last forever, especially with two cats. There are also 20-pound and 35-pound options, however.

This cat litter is a bit more expensive than the brand I normally buy: Tidy Cats. But it’s far from the most expensive cat litter on the shelf. If you think you might like it, you can find it at brick-and-mortar and online retailers like Chewy. One of the benefits of Chewy is being able to schedule deliveries so you never run out of necessities such as cat litter or food.

Geek Out Board Game

Date Tue, June 6 2017

Geek Out has been on my shopping list for some time. As a geek and board game lover, I seem to be the perfect audience!

Playskool Games did send me some sample cards a couple years back, but the pack was too small to really determine if the game would be fun. It only cemented that the premise was something that interested me.

I finally received this game as a gift last month and was pretty excited to try it out! I got the chance this weekend, so the experience is still pretty fresh in my mind.

In short, Geek Out is a trivia game where your group of friends can outbid one another in an effort to prove who can geek out the most about a specific topic. If you can prove your dominance and accrue 5 points before anyone else, you win!

The game consists of one die, hundreds of cards and point tiles. My one gripe might be that a much smaller box would be enough to contain Geek Out. The box is unnecessarily large to hold mostly cards with questions on them.

Every question requires you to name a certain number of people/things/facts in the categories of comics, games, fantasy Sci-Fi, and misc geekery, including:

  • Batman villains
  • Computer makers
  • Female astronauts
  • Franchises in which Egyptian gods appear
  • Games that take place on Mars
  • etc

If you can name more than anyone else, you can steal points. There were several times where our lists were a dozen items long or more, and people frequently wound up counting on their fingers to keep track of the geeky trivia. We even joked about needing a paper and pen to keep track.

Of course, this isn’t to say that it was exactly easy. Remember something off the top of your head is never as easy as it sounds, and Geek Out proves this.

We played in a group of six people, everyone with their own geeky interests and certainly some crossover. It quickly became apparent that there was a lot of arguing over semantics and technicalities while playing Geek Out, but I think that made it more enjoyable. We had to discuss what the card meant and whether X or Y counted, which encouraged conversations about geeky topics.

Another type of discussion that occurred frequently during Geek Out happened after the winner of each round had named a number of his or her geeky names/places/things. There would undoubtedly be a person who would say “Ah, but you forgot X!” and we would all nod about something we’d forgotten about. In this way, Geek Out provided us with a bit of nostalgia.

While I enjoyed the discussion and nostalgia, not everyone did. The questions on the cards fall into different categories and cover tons of different pop culture franchises (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, DC and Marvel comics, Back to the Future, and Star Wars to name just a few), but there was usually someone who was left out each round because they just didn’t know something about the current question. There’s definitely room in some of the more open-ended questions to mention your favorite book/movie/tv show/game/author/series/etc that no one else might know, but some questions are bound to leave people out in the cold. If you can keep up the pace, this might not be a huge deal. But Geek Out is probably going to get old quickly for some people.

I did enjoy Geek Out, and we didn’t make it through all the cards. But I can imagine that you wouldn’t want to play this game all the time or with the same group of people. Still, it is nice to geek out every now and then!

Bella + Canvas B810 Womens Cotton Spandex Fitness Pant

Date Fri, June 2 2017

I’ve been looking for a good pair of pants for lounging around the house for some time. I’ve taken to wearing my Pjs, and I just can’t be that slob anymore. Thanks for ApparelNBags.com for offering me a chance to review the Bella pants and to fill that gap in my wardrobe. I chose the Bella + Canvas B810 Womens Cotton Spandex Fitness Pant, and it was soon in my hands.

I normally wear a size large in bottoms, but I checked the size chart before ordering these, and I am glad. The XL fits extremely well in the waist, and a smaller size might have been too tight.

The Bella + Canvas B810 Womens Cotton Spandex Fitness Pant fit snugger around the thighs than I was expecting, but this isn’t an issue for me. The cotton and spandex blend is quite stretchy and also comfy to boot! If you want that looseness, you might not like these pants, however. Around the knees, they really become wider until they become a bootcut at the leg opening. If you’re taller than I am, and I’m willing to bet that most of my readers are, this looseness will start near the lower thighs.

These pants weren’t really designed for petite women like myself – or perhaps even average ones! I measured the inseam, and it comes out to around 35 inches! This is definitely longer than the size chart on Bella’s site (Apparel N Bags doesn’t have one for this item); I checked just to be safe before requesting these to view. Ha!

Bella bottoms size chart

According to the size chart, the inseam should be shorter than 35″

As you can guess, this means a lot of excess fabric when I walk and even the model seems to be a bit short for these now that I look at it. You could roll it if you’d like, but I’m going to hem them because I do like the pants.

The longer design also comes with a longer rise – around 12 inches. This is okay for me because I like high waists, and I think it’s rather flattering (more on that in a bit), but some people might find it too long. The waist isn’t really designed to be rolled down, but I personally don’t find it as slimming or stable when rolled down.

The slim cut of the legs and butt is flattering, and I like the look overall. After I get these hemmed, I could see myself wearing them outside the house for that casual look. Because the fabric is thin, I would advise paying attention to the undies you wear beneath these pants to avoid lines.

The thinness also means they’re not going to last forever if you do a lot of walking in them, so they’re not good joggers. But they’d work well for yoga and are comfy enough to simply lounge around the house in, which is what I plan to do with them. I’d recommend the Bella + Canvas B810 Womens Cotton Spandex Fitness Pant as long as you’re prepared to hem them if you’re short.

I was provided this product to review. All opinions are my own.

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